Ghaiyyath destroys field from the front as Appleby sets sights on Arc
Trainer insists five-year-old is the ‘finished article’ now Pyledriver wins St Leger trial to leave Muir facing a dilemma
Godolphin may have won the Derby in 2018 with Masar and had last year’s top sprinter Blue Point, but it is a while since it has had a middledistance horse to mention in the same breath as Swain, Daylami, Dubai Millennium and Halling, which it boasted in the early years.
But Ghaiyyath can now be added to that list, after the frontrunning five-year-old destroyed another bunch of high-class middle-distance rivals in yesterday’s Juddmonte International Stakes, coming home three lengths clear of Magical to land a third straight Group One – without seeing another horse.
There is something captivating about a horse that can keep doing it “the hard way”, from the front. It was one of the things which endeared great horses such as Desert Orchid and Persian Punch, among others, to the public and, indeed, is part of the reason for Battaash’s current popularity.
Hitherto wearing his heart on his sleeve and, like it or not, giving himself a hard race every time has played against the late-developing son of Dubawi, but with age has come strength and now he does not need months between races.
While it is debatable just who is in charge, the full-on Ghaiyyath or William Buick, the pair get into a rhythm which is a beat too fast for everyone else.
Yesterday, Rose Of Kildare tried to go with him, but that lasted about half a furlong and at no stage did Magical, who battled on for second despite seeming the first beaten, third-placed Lord North or fourth,
Kameko, ever look like picking him up. They were all off the bridle just to play catch-up. And when Buick asked Ghaiyyath a furlong and a half out he began to stretch away again and, if he turns up again in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in this sort of form and it is not a bog, he might take some stopping.
“He’s the finished article now and we had a plan this year,” said trainer Charlie Appleby. “We’d go for the Coronation, miss Ascot, run in the Eclipse and go from the Eclipse to here. It’s great to have a plan, but they don’t always work out with horses. Because he put in such big performances it took him a while to get over them in the past, but this season we are not seeing these dips after his runs.
“It’s what Godolphin strives to do, to get great horses like Ghaiyyath, so it’s fantastic for him to deliver. It wasn’t a searching pace, but an honest one, and William said when he could hear them coming he gave him a squeeze and he took off. He’s relentless and won’t lie down. He’s an exceptional galloper. We don’t think he has to lead, but the times we thought there’s been pace in a race it’s lasted half a furlong and after a furlong he’s been five lengths clear.”
Ghaiyyath’s options now include the Irish Champion, the Arc, the Breeders’ Cup or Japan Cup. “The Arc is the race we’d all like to win in Europe,” Appleby said. “When he went last year it wasn’t to make up numbers, but he went a bit too fast in the conditions.”
Buick said he was the best middle-distance horse he had ridden. “We’ve seen that before from him,” he said. “He gets into a rhythm and has an amazingly high cruising speed. His comfort zone is different to anything else. I haven’t seen, or ridden, another horse which can do that. I wouldn’t mind taking on Enable again, it would be fascinating, but if it was in the Arc it wouldn’t just be the two of us turning up.”
Indeed, one rival might be the William Muir-trained Pyledriver, who won the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur, traditionally a Leger trial, by 3½ lengths from Highland Chief with a 3lb penalty and his ears pricked. The dilemma now for Muir, Martin Dwyer and the colt’s owners is whether they go for the Leger or stick at a mile and a half for the Grand Prix de Paris.
“He was knocked over in the Derby, but I couldn’t believe the distance he made up in the last furlong and a half,” Muir said.
We have not seen winner Serpentine again, but on the back of this performance, Pyledriver is beginning to look at least second best of those that ran in the Derby.
Front-runner: Ghaiyyath heads for victory in the Juddmonte International at York after an impressive run with William Buick in the saddle